A bit of background

by Bill on February 15, 2014

For the first post on the blog, I thought I’d explain why I’ve set up this new site, and what I plan to do with it.

I started posting piano tutorials on YouTube about four years ago, just after I’d finished writing How To Really Play The Piano. I didn’t really expect the channel to become as popular as it has, and in the early days everything was a bit unplanned. I wound up putting various bits and pieces of related material (product pages, chord charts, lists etc. etc.) on other sites I owned.

This is *after* I tidied it up.

This is *after* I tidied it up.

After a while, it all became a bit of a mess. So the first reason for setting up billspianopages.com is to gather all my channel-related content on one site.

I’m a one-man band

The second reason is to do with the amount of time I spend producing videos, responding to comments and so on. As a ‘day job’ I’m a freelance advertising copywriter. This involves spending a lot of time on the train and in hotels, visiting clients.

It’s pretty good fun, but not as much fun as talking and writing about music. But because I’m self-employed, time is money – so if I start spending much more time on the channel, that time has to pay for itself. I do pretty well out of sales of the How To Really… and from YouTube ads, but I don’t want to start charging people for videos: it’s really important to me that all the tutorials I make are freely available for whoever wants to watch them.

Instead, I’m going to build up the business side of this by writing more books – the first couple will appear later this year. It makes sense to have a single website for sales and customer service.

Interesting stuff

The third reason for starting this site is that a blog is a great platform to share the the things that don’t really merit a whole YouTube video, or aren’t suited to the video format. So, for example, I often see stuff and think, ‘hmmm, I bet the channel subscribers would like that’, but have never really have anywhere to post it. Now I do.

{ 59 comments… read them below or add one }

Greg February 23, 2014 at 5:19 pm

congratulations on your new website Bill, I hope to follow you closer than I have in the past. I do own your book but I need to dust it off and get serious again.
Best of luck.
greg

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Bill February 23, 2014 at 5:20 pm

Cheers Greg! Yep, I hope the site is going to make everything a bit easier, and also be a bit of a launchpad for the new projects I’ve got in mind. Good luck with the practice!

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steve February 23, 2014 at 5:24 pm

i enjoy your videos and i’m glad you made this site! thanks for your work

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Stephen February 23, 2014 at 8:33 pm

Can I wish you all the best of luck with the new website and say I find your many you tube tutorials invaluable with a content and quality completely out on their own.

Thanks again Bill

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Ebba February 23, 2014 at 10:08 pm

Thank you for putting this site and all the YT tutorials together. I love your clear and informative teaching style. You’ve demystified so many things for me in the 8 months or so since I found your channel. So thank you, Bill!

Would you consider hooking up an rss-feed to this blog?

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Bill February 23, 2014 at 11:11 pm

Hey Ebba – thanks for the kind words. I’m glad you’re finding the channel useful! Yep, sorting out the RSS feed is on my “to do” list. It’ll probably get done tomorrow.

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Bill February 24, 2014 at 11:16 am

Update: the feed is live – link at the top of the right-hand sidebar. Shout if you run into problems with it :)

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Kevin February 24, 2014 at 5:51 am

I have your book and really like it’s content and your videos. I’d be interested in knowing what your ideas are for the books you have in the pipeline

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Bill February 24, 2014 at 7:51 am

Hi Kevin – cheers for buying the book, and I’m glad you like my stuff! I’m going to be writing a blog post either today or tomorrow explaining the plans…

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Barry March 1, 2014 at 5:33 am

Bill, thanks for all your efforts and assistance. I’m an avid follower of your tutorials (bought your book too). You have some off the best tips around and your relaxed teaching style is fantastic. I’m not a great piano player at all but following some of your tips turns fumble fingers into something that sounds half reasonable. With your excellent tuition and a lot more practice, I might even venture to take the headphones off (probably needs some performance enhancing fluid though).
Many thanks, BDI

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Bill March 1, 2014 at 10:45 am

It’s only 10.45am here Barry, so I can’t justify any such fluid for slightly more than seven hours – tea will just have to do.

Glad it’s going well, and thanks for the kind words!

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Ron Vincent March 1, 2014 at 8:32 pm

Congratulations on the new website Bill. I really enjoyed your book and also watch your YouTube videos regularly. After many years of both playing classical music and popular music at weddings, I am at last beginning to improvise a bit following lead sheets. So, thanks for all the useful tips.

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Bill March 1, 2014 at 9:12 pm

Cheers for that, Ron! You’re exactly the kind of player I had in mind when I wrote the thing, so it’s good to see it’s proving useful!

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Ken March 2, 2014 at 1:48 pm

Hi Bill
Congratulations I wish you every success, like other posters I have your book and watch all your videos, have learnt a lot from you.
Thanks for sharing

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George March 3, 2014 at 6:12 pm

Gogratulations Bill! your book is great and your videos too !
thanks a lot !

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George March 3, 2014 at 6:14 pm

Congratulations Bill ! your book is great and your videos too !
thank you !

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Bill March 4, 2014 at 7:58 pm

Thanks George!

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Ken B. March 31, 2014 at 12:05 pm

Hi Bill,
I just wanted to add my thanks from “across the pond”.
Like many people, I took lessons as a child and gave up. Now forty years later I saw one of your YouTube videos which led to another and another, etc. I bought a keyboard, and a beginner book to get me started. So far, it’s coming back quickly.

Knowing that your book was a little advanced for me, I bought it anyway, as a means of saying Thank You for your videos and inspiring me to play again. I’ll be able to use it soon. Congratulations on the new website.

Ken B.

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Bill March 31, 2014 at 1:21 pm

Thanks Ken – glad you’re finding it useful!

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JimG April 2, 2014 at 10:21 pm

Great stuff Bill, love the YouTube page and have scoured your previous websites, but its nice to have an official place to keep tabs on what’s new and what’s upcoming. Keep up the good work.
-JimG

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Andreas Albrecht April 26, 2014 at 9:05 am

Hi Bill,

I want to take the opportunity to thank you for your great tutorials which are tremendously helpful. My friends and family are amazed at my speed of progress – and so am I.

You must spend an incredible amount of time to produce these videos and to keep your blog going and I feel increasingly uncomfortably to use all this stuff without returning anything – especially as I have paid for a number of commercial turorials which have been less helpful than yours.

I highly appreciate that you want to keep your tutorials free, I think that’s great! However, what about asking your followers for a volontary subscription? As for me, I’d happily pay a monthly subscription or a one-time fee and I am quite sure others would too.

Keep going!
With best wishes from Berlin
Andreas

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Bill April 26, 2014 at 4:49 pm

Vielen Dank, Andreas – I’m glad to hear that the tutorials are helpful.

I’ve thought about the voluntary/donation model, and in some ways it’s very attractive. I’m not sure I’d formalise it in an “I expect you guys to pay” way, but I might well add a “buy Bill a beer!” link or somesuch to the site over the next few weeks. It’s worth noting that, although the tutorials are freely available on YouTube, that doesn’t mean I make no money from them. As they stand I get advertising revenue and the proceeds from book sales. So although I do this for fun, it is also a business already. Like I said, though, those are interesting thoughts.

By coincidence I was in Berlin last Tuesday (en route home from Dresden and Leipzig), and also had a couple of days in the city on the way out. I hope the warm weather is continuing :)

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Steve June 14, 2014 at 12:17 am

Thanks for the videos! Your work is remarkable! Keep it up. ;)

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Sandy June 20, 2014 at 4:41 pm

Hi Bill, love, love, love the videos. I purchased your book and found it terrific. I had 10 years of classical piano classes under my belt but really never learned music. My current simple goal is to learn to take lead sheets and either build them up into a decent piano arrangement or just improv on the fly. Would like to include appropriate stylistic tools into this – either blues, jazz/cocktail or pop/rock. I would love to see you do (an)other book(s) to address playing from fake books or lead sheets for the intermediate pianist. I have Blake Neely’s book and while decent enough of a beginner text I believe you are the guy that could really expound on the concept. There just isn’t much competition in that book space. I see texts for advanced jazz pianist (mostly advanced chord sub, rootless voicing etc.) but nothing in the intermediate to advanced intermediate space. You could do one for each genre – I for one would buy your trilogy. Food for thought for your spare time writing!

Thanks again from your Dallas, Texas fan for the videos which you so generously share!

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Sandy June 20, 2014 at 4:52 pm

One other note. IMO you should add a donate button. Would love to contribute a bit to your efforts.

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Bill July 1, 2014 at 2:21 pm

Hi Sandy – first off, apologies that your comment went missing somewhere in the approval pipeline. I just tripped over while doing some site maintenance, so it’s live now!

You’re right that there’s definitely room for more user-friendly beginner material in the book market. The cocktail piano ebook (which I’m slowly grinding out…) should help with the lead sheet stuff: after that I have a few other project ideas in mind.

Also, a “donate” button is a great idea – I’ll look into getting that fixed up. Thanks!

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Jeanne Whalen June 30, 2014 at 10:45 pm

Bill, I have your book as well, and my passion is being able to master many of the techniques you teach. I have quite a music background already but there are big gaps in my knowledge and performance abilities. You make this “user friendly” which is TOTALLY what I need. I get “ah HA” moments from your video posts and look forward to following you and learning from you. We are all indebted to you for making these free of charge. Thanks so much for the countless hours of instruction and dedication.

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Bill July 1, 2014 at 2:17 pm

Thanks Jeanne – good to hear all my stuff is helping you! I’m glad you find it all user-friendly: I guess I come at piano from the angle of someone who actually found it pretty hard to learn, so I find it relatively easy to get inside the head of a learner: people who are total naturals often have difficulty explaining things to beginners, because they have no conception of what it’s like to *be* an average beginner. Hope you keep enjoying it all!

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Jeremy July 10, 2014 at 12:45 pm

Hi Bill, just found your new website and it looks great with the easy to reference tutorials, I have already got your book which is great and very useful and I watch your tutorials, you have a great easy approach to follow and learn from.
Where should I post or send questions on this site i.e. jazz voicings info which is what I’m trying to work out at present, could really do with some help or advice as to where to get answers.
All the best with the new site I think it works really well
Regards Jeremy

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bryan July 12, 2014 at 2:30 pm

Hi bill
I’m new to your tutorials but I’m hooked, self taught on the keyboard you are opening my eyes and fingers to many things. I love your teaching style you come across so well
Thank you very much
Bryan

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Georgie July 16, 2014 at 4:34 pm

Hi Bill, I just wanted to take the time to say thank you for your tutorials, they are really helpful and you are a natural teacher. I have recently taken up the piano again as an adult (after struggling to read music as a child). I find that your tutorials give me the confidence to keep playing by ear without worrying about reading notes at this stage. Thank you for your time and effort and for keeping it free. I too work on a freelance basis and sometimes it feels like everything has a monetary value so I just wanted to make sure you know that it’s appreciated. Gx

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Alan Bell August 18, 2014 at 7:58 am

Bill. It is now over a month since your last comment on your blog. Am I looking in the wrong place for your replies? Look forward to finding out what is happening as I really enjoy your web page and tutorials. Many thanks. Ala B

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Bill September 24, 2014 at 12:20 pm

Hi Alan! No, not at all – I’m just swamped with day-job work and haven’t had a chance to moderate messages or do anything very much. Junior Hilton #1 is due in January, so it’s all hands to the pump getting stuff organised around here. I’m planning to have a blitz on site and channel soon, though!

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ken August 30, 2014 at 9:47 am

trying to figure out the greatness of sergio mendes i stumbled on your youtube channel. now im hooked. do i need to be able to read music to use your book on how to really play piano? thanks

ken, detroit usa

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Bill September 24, 2014 at 12:19 pm

Hey Ken – sorry for the delay replying. Yes, you do need to be able to read basic left and right hand (treble and bass clef) to use the book. However, there are good books on the market (e.g., the Complete Piano Player) that should get you to that standard quite swiftly.

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Graham parker September 24, 2014 at 12:12 pm

Bill, just discovered your youtube page yesterday. I’ve watched a couple of your videos and just wanted to congratulate you on your clear, easy going style. Really helpful and for the first time now I sound like I can play a bit of cocktail piano! Really cool. I’m classically trained so it’s great to start now and learn se of the techniques for improv. Love it. Graham

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James Williams November 18, 2014 at 12:49 pm

Bill, Thanks for your Book. As an Australian resident, I downloaded it and copied and made into a booklet. As a failed Guitarist after listening to Mark Knopfler, I turned to the piano, hoping it would be easier, which it isn’t, but much more challenging.
A question. How do composers choose which key to compose in, when C would be the easiest?

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Bill December 5, 2014 at 10:37 am

Hey James – no problem. I hope the book’s useful for you!

That’s a really good question. There are several reasons.

The best one is that composers use different keys for contrast and variety. Historically, classical composers used forms (like the symphony) which actually demand key change, and use it to create interest. Contemporary composers and songwriters do the same thing: sometimes songwriters will change key just for a bit of variation. Knopfler does it, especially in live stuff – if you dig around on YouTube for the live version of Your Latest Trick (for example) you’ll hear quite a few quick changes (slightly masked by the fact that the song has weird chords, but it’s the only example I can think of at the moment).

The other reason contemporary songwriters use different keys is to create variety within albums – imagine Brothers in Arms with every single song in C! Likewise, imagine listening to the radio and every song being in the same key – it would get dull.

It’s also done for different instruments and voices. So, for example, things like the tenor sax and alto sax have a different C from a piano C (tenor sax’s C is a piano Bb, and alto’s C a piano Eb). Similarly, keys like E and A are fairly easy on the guitar, but a bit trickier on the piano. It becomes really important for singers: different songs have different ranges, and are easier in certain keys for individual singers.

Some people also reckon that different keys have different characteristics (flat keys are richer and darker, sharp keys brighter) but that’s a personal thing – there’s no real evidence for it.

Does that all make sense?

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Wayne Fritzsche November 21, 2014 at 5:30 pm

You can certainly count me in on buying your book. Already bought your first (and only so far) book. Good stuff. I’m classically trained and really don’t know much about chords and chord progressions, etc. Great stuff again.

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Bill December 5, 2014 at 10:39 am

Thanks Wayne! You’re exactly the kind of player I had in mind when I first wrote it, so it’s good to know it’s doing the job!

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Kay January 12, 2015 at 7:07 pm

Hi, Bill!

Just bought the book look forward to advancing my skills! comping video is great and made me buy the book as your tutorials are very clear.

Thanks
Kay

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dave h February 14, 2015 at 7:56 am

Bill,

Thank you so much. I am learning more each day. Former pro drummer with dupuytrens contracture. So no drums. The challenge was pretty much out of the drums any way. Have been self teaching for 15 years and getting better all the time. I like the tutorials. I worked out the chord formulas by the semitone first then eventually the 1 3 5 and scale business finally made some sense. Sorry money is so tight, I take no government aid and live off what little I made years ago, so I can not afford your book. All I can offer you is my sincere thanks. I sure love your tutorials and appreciate your giving them away to the world. I do not get out much so this helps me a lot. My pal who is an accomplished keyboard player is starting to get a bit antsy as I am now pushing him a bit here and there. But with the hand issues some of the 7ths and major 7ths are hard with the left hand. And honestly I do not chord with the left but play bass guitar lines with it. It helps me accompany myself a bit more easily.

At any rate, I appreciate the knowledge. BTW I tried for years to read music and all I ever got was a headache. My eyes start to twitch and vapor locked mind. So I use chord sheets and then go from there. Thank you from California!

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Keith Lees February 18, 2015 at 9:01 pm

Hi Bill,

I have only just discovered your channel and website tonight as I am looking to make use of the piano that has been acting as a piece of furniture for the past few years!

I have played the ukulele for the past three years, although only simple chord stuff and am looking to learn to play the piano. The videos that I have watched tonight look like just the kind of stuff that I would like to play, blues and jazz improvisation.

I am just about to order your book as it looks like the kind of format that will suit me.

The one thing that I would like to know is do you have any kind of video order fora beg goner like myself, and of some years!?

Regards, Keith.

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Bill February 18, 2015 at 9:53 pm

Hi Keith – glad you’re finding all my stuff useful, and thanks for taking the time to say so!

There isn’t a strict order to the videos, mostly because when I first started making them it was in a fairly casual way (as you can see from the relatively lower quality of some of the early ones…). However, if you visit the tutorial index page (linked from the top nav) and open the full index using the Google Docs link, you could have a look at all the tutorials marked “beginners”. There’s no particular order, but you may find them pitched at about the right level.

I’ve got on my “to do” list (in fact, it’s got as far as being a folder on my desktop) the creation of a course for absolute beginners. When that goes live it sounds like it’ll be exactly what you need, but it could be a while yet. If you want to brush up real piano basics (which you’ll need to if you’re going to get the most out of How To Really…) then Kenneth Baker’s Complete Piano Player is the classic teach-yourself course.

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Alan Bell April 19, 2015 at 11:23 am

Hello, Bill. I am sure I am only one of hundreds waiting on news of your Cocktail piano book and on behalf of the rest I was wondering if you could give us some idea on when the publication will be ready for sale. I know that you will be very busy with your change of home circumstances and I hope everything is going well with your family. Best wishes, Alan

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Bill April 19, 2015 at 4:00 pm

Hi Alan – well, I hope it’s hundreds…!

In short, the book is done – I just need to give it a final proofread, shoot the last bit of the accompanying video, edit the whole video (it’s going to come in at about an hour) and build the sales page. If all goes well it should be available to buy on Wednesday this week, though that might slip a couple of days if I run into any last-minute hitches. What with one thing and another (including the family – all is well, thanks) this has turned into a more involved enterprise than I’d first expected. Apologies for keeping you (and everyone else) waiting such an unconscionable time. After all this buildup I hope everyone’s going to like it…

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Alan Bell April 25, 2015 at 7:46 am

Hi, Bill. I have received your Cocktail Piano Book and I would like to be among the first to congratulate you on a wonderful piece of work. You intimated early in 2014 that this may have been published during last summer and for various reasons this did not happen. However, the work that you have put in to producing this wonderful publication, it is easy to understand the slight delay. The way you have written the book, along with the video presentation makes it into a brilliant tutorial. I’m sure there will be countless people who will be extremely grateful to you for this publication. Best wishes to you and your family.

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Shu-Yun June 3, 2015 at 8:38 pm

Hello Bill,
I really loved you singing we wish you a merry christmas. That gives me too much motivation to follow your videos!

I’ll try to find your book and before that, I’d like to thank you for what you do for piano players. You inspired me a lot (I’m not alone I think!?)
Have fun every day!

Shu-Yun

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Mark O'Donovan June 7, 2015 at 1:46 pm

Hi Bill,

Great cocktail ebook and video.

Your videos have changes the way I play the piano (for the better) and make it much more fun.

I’ll continue to recommend your channel and books.

Hope the sales of your ebook do well.

Thanks

Mark

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Bill December 4, 2015 at 9:03 am

Hey Mark – thanks very much indeed! Sales are doing pretty well at the moment, thanks, but recommendations are always gratefully received :)

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Win Mikubu December 4, 2015 at 5:19 am

Hi Bill, I’m really enjoying watching your improvisation melody lessons on YouTube and really grasping the concept! However, i don’t know every chord (including your G7′s) etc, is it possible you could do a video on YouTube just going through every possible chord there is to play on the keyboard, please? I’m sorry it’s a big ask, but I believe with your technique and ability to explain on your videos you can do it! :)
Lots of Love,
Win

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Bill December 4, 2015 at 9:02 am

Morning Win: thanks very much – glad you’re enjoying them! Re: the chords, you’re actually the second person to ask me that in the past 24 hours. I actually did lots of chord videos back in 2009/2010, but obviously they’re waaaaaaay back in the timeline and looking a bit stale (old piano, old camera, and I was a bit less fussy about production values back then…). So what I might do is a tutorial with a bit of chord revision. It won’t be this week or next (I’m away) but I’ll have a shot at it the week after :)

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Ivan Hatvany January 22, 2016 at 9:37 am

You could maybe have a button for people to donate if they feel videos have helped them. I’ve followed dozens of them repeatedly – wd like to donate as a gesture of thanks Bill – let me know how best to do that, cd do internet transfer, cheers, Ivan

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Bill January 25, 2016 at 4:33 pm

Hi Ivan – it’s very kind of you to think about that :)

One thing you might consider is supporting my Patreon crowdfunding campaign at http://www.patreon.com/billhilton. Basically you pledge an amount per video (say, a dollar) and get billed for each new tutorial I post. You can limit what you pay very easily, so it winds up as the equivalent of buying me a pint every month or so rather than a major layout…!

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Marie Gillean March 18, 2016 at 10:28 pm

Do u have a fan site on Facebook?

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Bill April 19, 2016 at 12:36 pm

…sort of, in that there’s a page for How To Really Play The Piano. Putting up a general fan page is on the “to do” list for the next few months, once I’ve got the latest book sorted out…!

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Al May 12, 2016 at 8:09 pm

First off, thank you for your efforts. I’m 68 in August and woke up three nights ago with the idea that I should learn to play the piano. I don’t have a piano, but have an appointment today at 5 p.m. to look at several and purchase one. Being retired and having ‘disgressionary funds’ could be a bit dangerous, so I’ve decided to put my time, talents and money into something that will produce hours of entertainment and when I move on to the next adventure, at least a nice piano in the livingroom for my heirs to deal with. Not quite sure which tutorial to start with, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it. First things first; get a piano, have it delivered and set up, make a pot of hot cocoa and then give it a go.

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Bill June 2, 2016 at 1:37 pm

Good luck, Al! And even if you don’t get too far with it, your heirs will at least have a piece of furniture worth having ;)

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Stephen Peart September 25, 2016 at 5:33 pm

Hi Bill
I’m a piano teacher, and I have to say I really like your tutorials. Amongst other things I’m a great believer in the art, and value of improvisation, and I regularly recommend my pupils to watch your tutorials, and will continue to do so!
Keep it up,
Best wishes
Stephen Peart

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